It’s 2020 and we celebrated its coming. However, it’s not quite over for some of us. We still have Chinese New Year around the corner! We often forget about the lunar calendar and that’s what various countries in Asia still follow. Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is never the same day each year, but it’s always somewhere between Mid-January and Mid-February. 2020 is the Year of the Rat, which is the first animal in the Chinese Zodiac cycle. Going further into it, the rat’s element on this cycle is metal out of the Chinese Five Elements. Rats are known to be curious, positive, and insightful. They’re usually associated with business-minded folks as well. It’s a major holiday for most of my folks and we do a few things before the new year comes, like cleaning out the house. Once the new year rolls in, we start fresh by going “in with the new and out with the old”. More simply put, I just put on my new clothes for the new year.
Just like our worldwide New Year’s celebrations, Chinese New Year is celebrated with fireworks. That’s usually out around countries in Asia where major Chinese communities are. Since I’ve lived in the US all my life, my family had a Chinatown in our local area where we can visit. We may not get a whole lot of fireworks, but we always have some firecrackers around. We’re always welcoming the new year with a BANG! Whenever I go out to a place where Chinese New Year is celebrated, there’s red all over the place. In Chinese culture, the color red symbolizes good fortune and happiness. Chinese New Year is actually 15 days long. Families in China, Hong Kong, and others make trips for family reunions like how we travel during the winter holidays in the west. Outside of Asia where there are various Chinatowns around the world, Chinese New Year traditions and customs are simplified to parades and shows. A favorite show of mine had always been the lion dance where two people inside a lion costume dance within a crowd. Drums and gongs would accompany wherever the lion roamed. Kids are handed out red envelopes with lucky money inside. Since I’m in the US, I used to get somewhere between $1-10.
A custom that many can relate to is some sort of dinner. We all have specific holiday dinners, like
Thanksgiving for example. Whenever families get together for Chinese New Year, we have a pretty filling dinner. A staple dish we always have on the table are noodles, which are supposed to symbolize longevity. Since my father and friends love to go out and fish a whole lot, we always have fish to represent prosperity. Dumplings, eggrolls, and oranges are eaten for wealth and fortune. I usually don’t come across nian gao a whole lot, which are glutinous rice cakes, but it’s for those looking for a higher income or position. Finally, we get some sweet rice balls also known as tang yuan, which brings families together. In any Chinese New Year dinner, these are seven dishes you can find on the table which are believed to be lucky.
Chinese New Year is celebrated all around, whether it be on a large or small scale. Just as much as any major holiday, it’s a pretty good way to bring families together when they normally don’t see each other as often. It can be celebrated and observed by just about anyone regardless of ethnic backgrounds. As long as appreciate the meaning of Chinese New Year and celebrate good fortune with all the togetherness of our families, we’ll have a good year to look forward to.
– Toby Rattana